Campus of memories

Marking the slow readjustment to an ever-changing ‘normal’

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It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since students, teachers and faculty were first sent home as the COVID-19 virus spread across the globe. Yet as many have become accustomed to staying at home all day, avoiding close contact with other people and turning digital for work and communication, a new ‘normal’ way of life was created — so much so that to think about the ‘normal’ way of life before the pandemic may seem jarring or unimaginable.

When I walked on campus on that warm sunny afternoon in late February, all the way from the library to the field, I recalled traces of the pre-pandemic ‘normal.’ Students conversing by the lockers during breaks. Sports teams sharing various parts of the track and field. Teachers’ classrooms filled with students chatting and eating lunch on rainy days. These memories seemed to emanate from the very structures on our campus, even though in reality the school was comparatively empty.

Soon the campus will be filled with (although not as much as before) people coming back for hybrid learning. Teachers will see some students face-to-face, students will actually walk to different classrooms alongside peers who continue to use Google Meets, and the campus will no longer be a silent slab of concrete. 

The future is uncertain, yet we can all look at our campus and feel some sense of unity. Seniors can hope for a sense of normalcy in their final year, freshmen can hope for an actual taste of high school and years in between can hope for a continuation of years prior. While more than 365 days have passed since we went to a ‘normal’ day of school, one thing is for sure — the campus will always embody the highs and lows of Oak Park High School, and will be waiting for our return.

In February 2020, students celebrated Chinese New Year on the Great Lawn. Activities included arts and crafts, traditional food and a group dance performed by Chinese language students. (Photo courtesy of Sawyer Nicoll and Mina Jung/Talon)
In celebration of the Hindu festival of lights Diwali in December 2019, OPHS students came to school wearing chudidhars, kurtas and other pieces of Indian clothing. This commemoration photo was taken by the G-buildings. (Photo courtesy of Sai Bhargavi, Lakshmi Narasimhan and Mina Jung/Talon)
OPHS alumnus JD Slajchert sold copies of his book “Moonflower” and talked to students during lunch on Sept. 13, 2019. Senior Shoshana Medved and OPHS alumna Leonie Humig interviewed Slajchert about his debut novel in front of the front entrance to the gym. (Photo courtesy of Blake Hanlon and Mina Jung/Talon)